Natural Areas Academy


The sustainable use and management of our natural resources and the long-term conservation of our natural heritage depends upon people who understand and appreciate the natural world. Yet as environmental challenges mount, people are becoming ever more disconnected from nature. 

Cornell Botanic Gardens is uniquely positioned to provide the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to reconnect people with nature through the Natural Areas Academy (NAA).

The goal of the Natural Areas Academy is to foster the conservation of natural areas and rare and declining species and their habitats by demonstrating essential stewardship methods, cultivating environmental literacy, and encouraging interactive experience with the natural world.

Natural Areas Academy is offered twice annually- fall and spring. Each season will focus on specific conservation strategies and a specific restoration project within our natural areas. The management practices learned and re-enforced through hands-on activities will be transferable to restoration and land management at multiple scales. And by focusing on a specific site, in just one season of courses, participants will be able to see their work transform a site.

After completing two seasons of Natural Areas Academy, participants can receive their Natural Areas mentor certificate.  With the newly gained expertise, the Natural Areas Academy participants will help to mentor the next generation of scientists, teachers, environmental stewards, and leaders, thereby fulfilling a vital role in the long-term preservation of our natural heritage, our world, and ultimately, our place in it. 

Click here for a current schedule.

Program Requirements

Participants in the Natural Areas Academy are encouraged to work towards the program’s goals and can receive certification after participating in two seasons (40 hours) of activities. Participants can decide whether they want to participate in just one season or continue with a second season to receive their certification. Additional program requirements include:

  • attendance in the courses each season,
  • 40 hours of participation/attendance in a combination of workshops, directed stewardship activities, partner opportunities, and research opportunities, and
  • a non-refundable $90 per nonmember and $80 per members & students fee per season (fall & spring)  

Upon certification, NAA participants are conferred the title of Natural Areas Mentor, and may continue to participate in the academy as a NAA Mentor at no cost.

Enrollment in the Natural Areas Academy

Click here to register and pay the registration fee.

Calling all new recruits! Click below to view a brief video featuring Nikki Cerra to learn more about the program.          


Spring 2015 Workshops and Directed Stewardship Activities


Click here for a current schedule.

 This 2015 spring season, the Natural Areas Academy is a concentrated core of expert-led, hands-on workshops and directed stewardship opportunities focused primarily on riparian (related to watercourses) plant communities. While the courses focus on components in creating a specific conservation strategy, a rain garden, participants will gain basic skills and knowledge transferable to conservation in their own yards and to larger-scaled restoration and management projects in natural areas. 

Directed stewardship activities will provide an opportunity to reinforce workshop lessons and gain additional hands-on knowledge from Plantations staff and Academy peers. Through learning by doing, participants will better understand how the individual pieces fit and interrelate in broader systems.

All activities will be offered during standard working hours, weekends and evenings.